MPAA Rating: PG
USCCB Rating: NR
Reel Rating: (2 out of 5)
Faith of Our Fathers is similar to Pixar’s Inside Out in telling two parallel stories that intertwine to inform a central theme. Here, the first story involves two war buddies in 1969 Vietnam and the second a road trip of discovery between their adult children. However, unlike the incredible Inside Out (see my June 29th CWR review), Faith of Our Fathers suffers from numerous and serious problems, especially atrocious dialogue and mostly poor acting. There is something there, but only the most committed Pure Flix fans will be able to find it.
John Paul (named for the Beatles, not the Pope) is an average Evangelical Christian living a settled and predictable life in California. While rummaging through some old boxes, he comes across a letter from his father Steven to his (previously unknown) best friend Eddie. Steven had died in Vietnam when John was only a baby, so any information is vital, sending the son on a cross country journey in search of his father’s elusive friend. Instead, he discovers Eddie’s son, Wayne, a dirty and annoying unbeliever who has several letters from Steven to John but makes the searching son pay $500 a pop to read them. Which, of course, is not only incredibly jerkish but probably illegal since they were addressed to John in the first place.
Together, this odd couple drive to the Vietnam War Memorial in Washington, DC, to learn more about their fathers, encountering bumps both physical and spiritual along the way. The story of their fathers is told in flashbacks. They mirror their sons in that Steven is a skittish rookie constantly flipping through his pocket Bible while Eddie is a hard and seasoned warrior who can’t be bothered with faith. However, they come to an understanding, especially through the shared experience of leaving behind new wives and young children back home in order to fight for Uncle Sam halfway across the world.
John and Wayne’s story is pretty dull except for brief flashes of humor that comes from personality clashes. Eventually, they meet an officer who knew both fathers and can shed some light on the past. When the inevitable speech about faith comes, it is both preachy and boring, mostly due to its terrible delivery by Stephen Baldwin, who never shows any inflection of emotion at any time.
Stephen and Eddie’s story is much better, developing the characters well and bringing their narratives to a devastating conclusion. Their final scene, which involves a memorable reference to the Good Thief, is the only moment that reaches the brilliance of the studio’s finest film, God’s Not Dead. While Baldwin preaches in words, Stephen and Eddie demonstrate the gospel through action, and it is infinitely more compelling.
Faith of Our Fathers suffers from the ever-present thorn in the side of independent Christian films: poor artistic quality, which is a nice way of saying: it’s pretty bad. The main culprit is the insufferable dialogue. A perfect example is the cameo of Si Robertson of “Duck Dynasty” fame. Instead of letting Si do what Si does best—namely, ad lib to the camera—they force him to read a script of lines that mimic his style but are clearly constructed.
Another frequent mistake is poor scenery. Protestant John prominently shows an Orthodox icon in his house. As the Vietnam soldiers march through the jungle, every scene looks oddly similar to the next and the fog is so thick it looks like an Ed Wood horror film rather than a South Asian swamp. Then, once again, there’s Stephen Baldwin, given top billing despite a supporting role, stopping the action short every time he’s on screen.
There’s a nice little story hidden deep within this mediocre movie, but it’s covered with more cheese than those stuffed crust monstrosities from Pizza Hut. More than once, sitting in theater, I wished I had a remote control so I could see a better film. The film does contain a glimmer of traditional patriotism and respect for those who gave their lives for our freedoms, but that is also sidelined for the evangelical message. Faith of Our Fathers isn’t great, or even good, but since the Fourth of July weekend alternatives are Terminator 5, Magic Mike 2, and a documentary about the life and death of Amy Winehouse, you could do worse.
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